Saturday, March 27, 2021

Driving tour of Manhattan

If the Muppets can take Manhattan, then so can I! Last Saturday, my brother and I took a drive to Manhattan, for my Places I've Been project. I am not sure I've discussed that on here or not, but back in October 2019, on our family trip to Toledo, I photo documented every town we went through. I decided I enjoyed that and wanted to photo document EVERY town I've been to- not just on that one trip. Thus, the Places I've Been project was born. 

We had been to Manhattan a few times, but never with the Edge, That's important because it has the GPS built in that displays the places we are in...essential to the project. 

We set out early, around 7 AM, and instead of turning into Manhattan at 42nd street, like we normally do, we went all the way around the bottom, to the end of the Henry Hudson Highway, through the Battery Park Underpass (tunnel), and up FDR Drive until we turned in onto 42nd street from the other direction- which happened to be at the United Nations. We traversed the entire width of Manhattan on 42nd street, which brought us back to the Henry Hudson Highway, at which point we headed home. The entire time we were in Manhattan was roughly 40 minutes, and only that many because there are a lot of red lights. 

I took 887 photos on the day, which I will not be sharing here, but I will post some highlights. 

One of the highlights for me was seeing the Freedom Tower up close. When I saw it on TV and in print, I wasn't all that impressed. It didn't look like a special building. Now that I've seen it in person, I can say I was 100% wrong. It's stunning. The presence it has, watching it get larger and larger in the windshield as you approach it, it's truly awe-inspiring. 

The Intrepid is so cool!
sun on glass buildings looks interesting. This was taken out the roof.
First sight of Freedom Tower
Notice how little traffic there is?
Vent for the tunnel heading into New Jersey. The skyline across the Hudson is NJ.

The Freedom amazing. The last two were taken out the roof! 
Heading into the Battery Park Underpass
They can call it an underpass, but it's a tunnel
No idea the significance of the ship but love it!
Brooklyn Bridge
Empire State Building. I didn't get a better shot of it, unfortunately.
On the left is Manhattan, the East River, and Brooklyn on the right
lookin' at Brooklyn. Wouldn't want to park there.
United Nations
Chrysler Building
I like it when the buildings label themselves.
Looking straight up out the roof at the Chrysler Building. It's actually nicer from afar.
Grand Central
This is the image I chose to use as the official image of New York, NY for my Places I've Been Project. I was hoping it would say Manhattan, but no such luck. 
The New York Library's famous lions wearing a mask
The H&M building. This is where we turn to park when we go into Times Square area, and we  use this as the main location finder when seeing Manhattan at night, like on New Year's Eve.
Madame Tussauds, which you may recall from a post I made in 2019
Back to the Hudson, the ride is essentially over. It's all just retracing the roads we took to get there in the other direction to get home.

I have no idea what this apparently abandoned building is, but I love it. There's a section of Manhattan with abandoned buildings that remind me of Greek/Roman ruins. 

On the way home, we stopped as Ossining and found a part on the Hudson River, but it was super cold and windy and we didn't stay long. 

We ended with KFC but I didn't photograph that. The entire trip was over by 9:30 AM- which I know because that is when KFC opens and we were in their parking lot waiting for them, something we had never done before. 

If you want to see all of the photos I took, they are on my website here: Places I've Been Trip : Manhattan By time I culled out the blurry one and the duplicates, I was left with 831 photos. Honestly, they are some of the best photos I've taken on a driving tour, possibly because Manhattan speed limits are pretty low. Or maybe I'm just that good. ­čśÄ I'll let you decide...

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Are you a Krak-Head?

 Seriously, that's what Seattle Kraken fans are already calling themselves! The arena, formerly the Key Arena, home of the SuperSonics and Storm, has already been dubbed the Krak House. (not officially, it has some stupid name I can't remember) Not sure they thought the team name all the way through there....I was rooting for Sockeye! Mostly because I was imagining a giant fish mascot. (OK, so the Kraken's likely squid-like creature will probably be pretty cool, too). 

All that aside, the Seattle Kraken did something today that's never happened before in my entire 33 year history of collecting sports cards. They got a card into my collection before the team actually existed! While it's not the first time a team has gotten cards before it actually played, even in the sports I collect, it's the first time I've had it happen. Both the Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies got cards before they played, but I didn't take up the NBA until February 1996, 4 months after their first games. Even though I started collecting hockey with the Golden Knights' introduction, they didn't get cards before they played, I got my first in December of 2017. 

I had mentioned to my mom that I wanted the Seattle Kraken card from the 2019-20 Upper Deck Game Dated Moments set, but I didn't want to pay the price asked for it on ebay. She went and got it for me! 

Here's the back, just because:

I can't wait until they come into the league. It's a tough time for them, for sure, but there's nothing as exciting as an expansion team. Frankly, I hope we see some more over the coming years. 

Only a few months now until we find out who will be the Inaugural Kraken. 

On a different topic, I had to go to the doctor today, which is one of the worst possible things I can ever imagine having to do. It was made a lot better by the fact that I saw a 60s El Camino on the way. First time I've seen a 60s El Camino, and only the 2nd El Camino, I've seen since the Pandemic started. Also first 40s car I've seen since it turned out to be a very good day.


Sunday, March 21, 2021

NASCAR Weekends

You may remember a while back I decided to rescan my entire NASCAR collection, since the original scans I made were subpar, and not really usable. I didn't have the right tools or the knowledge I have now when I did them, that I have now. 

Well, I hadn't really worked much on them and I needed to change that, so I decided when this season started I would work on NASCAR cards exclusively when I was watching the races on the weekend. Give or take a month into the season, and I'm making some real progress:

When I started, this entire case was full. It's a Jammers 1100 card plastic box, which is what I have my "waiting to be rescanned" NASCAR collection in, or I should say much of it...there's also two 5000 count boxes. While it may not look like it's a whole lot of progress, trust me, it's about 400 to 500 cards I've done since February, because I haven't just been pulling from this box. 

When I started this in February, I didn't have a single card scanned for 1992 Maxx or more importantly, 1991 Maxx, one of my favorite sets ever. 1992 Maxx, with the red border, was the first NASCAR set I ever had completed, at 300 cards, when I got a factory set in mid-1993. No 1991 Maxx appear in this photo, I already pulled out the ones from this box and scanned them, I think. Might be a few stragglers. but I don't see any of the telltale black borders showing. 

I still have a long way to go, this isn't a project that will be completed in 2021, but I wanted to post about it now. 

A couple of times I got on such a roll with them that I continued doing NASCAR from these boxes that I continued doing them after the race was over, I'm not JUST limiting myself to the weekends, but I am ONLY doing these cards on the weekends. Hope that makes sense. It does in my head. 

Friday, March 19, 2021

Censorship fail

From 1994 to 1999, the Travis Carter Enterprises Cup team was sponsored by Camel (94-97) and later Winston (98-99). 

It was sometimes censored on cards, with no apparent rhyme or reason as the cards were both real and censored from the same companies. 

I just got this die cut insert from 1999 Wheels, where the Winston sponsorship was censored off the sides of the car, and Jimmy's shirt...but not his hat. Nor the Winston Cup logo, which usually never got censored even on otherwise censored cards.  Even though the No Bull logo was heavily tied into the Winston campaign, it remained uncensored. 

Censorship is dumb. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Card set ranking: 1994-95 NBA

 I've been talking about doing a set ranking of each year in the 1990s for the NBA for a while, and that time is now. This isn't a wholly new concept- it's been done before. It's even been done by me, when I ranked my all-time favorite sets when I celebrated my 20th anniversary collecting the NBA. That was already 5 years ago, and, spoiler alert, if you jump back into my archives and reread those posts you'll likely know the "winner" of each year. I'm not going to link it like I normally would when I reference an old post so there's some newness here at least. 

So why am I starting with 1994-95, instead of the logical choices of 1990-91 or 1995-96, the first season I collected? Mostly, it's because I've been working on scanning a big stack of them, so they have been on my mind, and secondly, it's near the bottom of the decade in favorites, although not last, I would say that's 1998-99. I would rank 1994-95 as my second least favorite season of the 1990s for card designs. That's not to say it's all bad...oh no, far from it. In fact, my 2nd all-time favorite set is from the 1994-95 season. 

All rankings are based on my personal preference, my personal experience with the set, and the nostalgia factor that drives so much of collecting, so your results may vary. And, even though this is how I'm ranking them now, doesn't mean it's how I will always rank them. 

Let's begin the countdown with set #15...

SP Championship. Interestingly enough, this is the set I've been working on scanning a large batch of. Go figure. The first of two seasons it was released, this was a retail only set. It's also one of the smallest sets of the year at 135 cards, and has one parallel. It's the set I traditionally had the second least of, although I've gotten it much closer to completion than it used to be. Although it's impossible to tell from the scan, the oval on the bottom is team colored foil (purple for the Bucks) with the team name in silver foil. I'm at 113 of 135. 

#14 Skybox

This set is just so incredibly dark. I think Skybox artificially darkened the backgrounds, and the black banner adds to that. Some of the teams have the last names printed in such a dark color that they almost blend in to it. In addition, Series 1 had the Skybox logo embossed, which means they are nearly impossible to stack. This is presumably why it was flat on series 2. In addition, the cards have a somewhat tacky feel to them. It's again nearly impossible to keep these cards dust free. It's a 350 card set across two series, with no parallels. I've completed it. 

#13 Finest 
There's nothing particularly wrong with this year's Finest, it's just not as visually interesting as other Finest sets- or other sets from the 1994-95 season. The cards tend to curve badly, more than other years of Finest, and they are also turning green on most of them. First year of the peel. I actually have a card where a bug is trapped between the peel and the card. If all the Finest sets I have the lowest number of Refractors from this set than any other in the era before 2004-05. Issued in 2 series for 331 cards, I have 278 of them. 

#12 Jam Session

I admit it, I'm a size snob. Any card that's too big to sort and store with the rest of my cards just doesn't stand much of a chance of ranking highly. I have 196 of the 200 cards in the set. There are no parallels. If/when I get them, I will have the entire three-year run of Jam Session. This is the middle year.

#11 Emotion

Like SP Championship, this is a set that was always rarer in my collection. I didn't get most of them until I joined the Trading Card Database and got them via trade. This was Fleer/Skybox's first attempt at a super premium set, and it kind of falls flat. Many of the "emotions" showcased on the card front are not emotions at all (Boom, For Real, Air, Leadership, etc, are not emotions, yet are featured). This set was always a regret for me, as back around 2001-02 time frame my local shop had a box in the case, but I didn't get it...I was so focused on the new releases, of which there were many, and by time I had caught up on them, the Emotion box had sold. Now I've traded for so many that it would be stupid to buy a box if I could find one. At 121 cards, it's tied for the smallest set of the year, and I have 88 of them now. There are no parallels. The only reason this is higher than Jam Session is because it's standard sized, and the only reason it's higher than Finest is because now that I scan everything, I realize how unpleasant Finest/Chrome style cards are to scan. 

#10 Flair
The first Premium set from Fleer/Skybox, the debut Flair set features three photos on each card, and a large, ornate first letter of each last name, The set suffers from two problems, in that all the photos are extra dark, and the cards have a greasy feeling coating on most of them, although not all, that shows fingerprints and dust easily. Released in 2 series totally 326 cards, I have 275 of them, meaning this is the lowest percentage of any 1994-95 set in my collection. I just took in this Clyde Drexler card via trade on the Database this week. Luckily this card does not have the greasy feeling.

#9 Topps

Not one of the Topps's best efforts, the set suffers from the font used for the player's name. Photos are decent quality, and the set size is standard Topps for the era. It was the first Topps flagship set to have foil on every base card, both the name and Topps logo. Has one parallel. Despite the issues I mentioned, the set is rather pedestrian. There's nothing inherently wrong with it, there's just sets that are better from this season. The card back is actually nicer looking than the front, in my opinion. Issued in 2 series totaling 396 cards, I have completed it. 

#8 SP

Hard to believe, but this was Upper Deck's first Premium set. Even though it's pretty much just a standard different things were in 1995. Actually, this set DID do something that hadn't been seen yet at that time, in that all the Rookie cards were grouped together at the front of the set and printed with etched foil. Upper Deck would use the etched foil extensively in the Black Diamond brand, and it had debuted on an insert in the 1993-94 Special Edition set, but this was the first time it was issued as a base card. Issued in one series totaling 165 cards, I have 160. Completion is in range. This is the only SP set to have a parallel. 

#7 Ultra

The fact that Ultra is my favorite brand and that's no secret probably makes this year's set placing 7th a surprise...but I've never really liked this year's set all that much. In fact, it's my least-favorite Ultra release ever. The set suffers from overcropping, with some of the photos being so closely cropped that they can't even fit his whole head on the card! Another problem this set has the drop shadow on the player's name and team not lining up properly, something you see on this card. This was the first ever NBA set to feature both gold and silver foil on every card. Issued in two series totaling 350 cards, I have 349 of very close. 

#6 Stadium Club

The 1994-95 Stadium Club set is very similar to the 1993-94 set, but that's not really a bad thing. As always, Stadium Club is all about the photography and it doesn't disappoint there. I don' think I really appreciated the Stadium Club brand as much as I likely should have over the years but I enjoy this set more now than I did in the 1990s. Issued in 2 series for 362 cards (plus six checklists) I have completed the set.

#5 Upper Deck

I don't consider this one of UD's best efforts, but the set is fairly common so it's got a nostalgia boost. The first UD set to have the player's name in foil, that would become a staple for Upper Deck for many years. The team colored border parts make the set less monotonous. Photos are high quality and varied. Issued in 2 series totaling 360 cards, I've completed it.

#4 Collector's Choice

The 2nd largest set of the year at 420 cards (and I've completed it), Collector's Choice was marketed as a low-end set, but it's really not that at all. While it's not perfect, it's a great set. The large checklist, the large photos, and the parallels. This is the first set to ever have a Level 2 parallel. (a term I created). The one-per-pack Silver Script is a Level 1 parallel, but the Gold Script which was one-per-box is a Level 2. They are pretty unusual to come across...I've only collected three of those over the past 25 years. I find the name to small, and the large square in the corner with an icon based on the player's position is totally unneeded. If that was a team logo it would be OK, but it's just a waste of space as is.
There are also International editions of this set, you can also collect it in French, German, Spanish, Italian and Japanese! However, since they are the same cards just in a different language, I did not include them separately in this countdown. Nor will they be counted in the totals to come at the end of the post. 

#3 Topps Embossed

Probably the greatest small set ever, at only 121 cards, it's tied for the smallest set of the year. every card is embossed, the player, the border, and the entire back of the card as well! It was an experiment Topps never did again, which is unfortunate. The cards do tend to take damage easily...many of mine came out of the packs damaged. (I did a box) and I have to wonder if that played a role in why it was a one-and-done. The backs include a Did You Know section with interesting trivia about the players as well. One of the few sets I've actually read the backs of in full. I have the complete base set. There is a one-per pack parallel. This set had no inserts, which is unusual in the era. It's the only set of the year with no inserts. The Micheal Williams base card from this set was my #1 most wanted card from 2005-2016, when I finally got it, on COMC. 

#2 Fleer

One of two sets from 1994-95 to crack my all-time Top 10, the only reason this didn't "win the year" is because my second-all-time favorite set is from the same season. This one ranked 10th back in 2016, and I would maintain that spot if I were doing that list now.  I love the design of this set....the colorful foil splash with the brightly colored name just works for me. Each team has two different options, and possibly more-I have not done a study of that yet. Throw in the nostalgia factor and you have a real winner of a set. The photos are somewhat pedestrian, but the colorful splashes and names and the nostalgia factor overcome that with ease. The borders on the back are black and do chip easily, but that's not really that big a deal, as the card front is my main focus. Issued in two series for 400 cards, I have the complete set.

There is a European version that is basically the same, but includes some team logo cards only found there. Like Collector's Choice, it's not counted towards the totals. 

And now...the grand #1 favorite set from 1994-95 is...

Hoops! This set is perfect...seriously, it's the only structurally perfect NBA set ever made. What makes a set Structurally Perfect? Full rosters, coaches, league leaders, a past season recap and a team logo card. That's all it takes, yet in the entire history of the NBA - roughly 700 sets -  it's the only one ever made.  But wait, there's more. The card back includes full career statistics, including the playoffs and college, AND has a spot for jersey number! And they even have a writeup and a color photo too. Now, if you were willing to accept any team card, not just a team  logo, the 1991-92 and 1992-93 Hoops sets would also qualify. Besides being structurally perfect, it's got a great design. This is everything right with trading cards. At 450 cards, it's the largest set of the year, and I've completed it. 

To complete all the base cards of 1994-95, it would require 4487 cards, and I have 4318 of them. (as of March 12th, 2021, when I wrote this) it's not outside the realm of possibility that I could complete the entire season someday. There are no "stoppers", cards that are rare or expensive, ahead of me. There are a few Jordans that could be problematic to somebody starting now, but luckily I got them all in the 1990s.  

Here is the 1994-95 folder on the Cardboard History Gallery, although there's still a lot left to scan. 1994-95 collection